Sunday, February 9, 2014

Review: "The Bayou Trilogy" by Daniel Woodrell

I don’t know what it is, but on paper, I should really like Daniel Woodrell. I like Tom Franklin, Frank Bill and Donald Ray Pollock, other writers who turn southern violence into biblical tragedy, but after reading his omnibus collection, entitled The Bayou Trilogy, thus reading everything he has written to date, I can’t help but feel a little let down by the promises of other writer’s who swore by him. He may be the best prose stylist in the genre, and arguably, the country right now, but the thing that he lacks, really what he always lacked, was simple storytelling skills. His characters speak cleverly but never untruthfully, but they never really drive any narrative forward that is anywhere near novels like Franklin’s Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter or Pollock’s The Devil All the Time. With the exception of The Death of Sweet Mister, all of his books come off as rather critic friendly, leaving in cool little nuggets of dialogue, but leaving out the blood and guts that give any of the stories he tells an edge. It is weird reviewing this book as a whole, because it really is three different book, featuring Rene Shade, a Cajun Marlowe, with haunted past and a real messed up family tree, and all take place in the violent Bayou town of St. Bruno. Through the three novels, he deals with a race-related murder that threatens the fragile balance of the town’s residents, a brutal gang that comes from the outside to take it over, and Rene’s father John X, who comes to town, bringing a brutal sociopath with him looking for blood. It sounds interesting, but the people who inhabit this town seem to exist to be clever, and it never gets interesting, even when something shocking happens, like the death of a woman in one of the books. I hope he writes more, and even though he has one book I love, I still think he is criminally underrated.

Rating: 3/5

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